Becoming a caregiver for a loved one is no easy feat. Whether you’ve expected to become a caregiver or have had the role thrust upon you, there are many details that need to be worked out in order to help make the journey run as smoothly as possible. Many of these you’ve probably already thought about and prepared for, such as the financial aspect, coordinating living situations, the comfort of your loved one and so on. But one aspect that people don’t always prepare for is the mental aspect of becoming a caregiver for your aging parent.
“We so often put caregiving on a pedestal and treat it as a selfless and wonderful calling,” says Sue Sunderland, Executive Director of The Bridges at Warwick, a supportive personal care community in Jamison, PA. “While this can be true and often is for many people, thinking of caregiving in this way can in fact do you and your loved one a disservice. Caregiving is a very loving act, but it’s also difficult, stressful and frustrating – something that many people don’t consider when they take on the role.”
Adult children and other caregivers tend to first throw themselves into the practical aspects of caregiving and can easily neglect the psychological impact of the new roles on themselves and their parents, says Sunderland. This can lead to resentment, caregiver burnout and a general decline of care for everyone involved. “Before you become a caregiver, or as early on in the caregiving process as possible, it’s important for you to tackle some fundamental goals and markers for mental preparation and health,” she says. “This will make sure you and your parent are as ready as possible for the shift and will allow you to keep from undermining your physical and mental health while caring for your loved one.”
Before Moving Mom or Dad In
Once it’s determined that you will be a caregiver, one of the first preparations that need to be made is whether or not your parent will move in with you. There’s a lot more that needs to be considered than just where you’re going to put their stuff and what bedroom will be theirs. There will be many aspects of life that will change for your parent and yourself as a result of the move, so it’s important to consider these practical and emotional considerations as early as possible:
- Where will Mom or Dad stay? If the bedrooms are on the second floor, will your parents be able to navigate stairs in the future? Is a bathroom on the same level? What about the kitchen? What makes the most sense for your loved one’s current and future abilities?
- Who’s paying for adapting the home? If your loved one will have mobility issues, will you need to install a chair lift? What about grab rails and other accessible features? These are expenses that are often not thought about at first, but can add up to be very expensive down the road.
- Will everybody have enough privacy? If you and your spouse have been empty nesters for some time, will you be able to have much needed alone time? If you have children in the house, will they be able to live their lives without “babysitting” their grandparents? Your parent will also want to have their own privacy and alone, time, too. Setting down boundaries will help reduce stress and ensure everyone feels as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
- Will your parent have enough independence? The desire to do things on our own doesn’t change as we age. The loss of independence is one of the biggest fears for seniors. Will you be able to provide your parent with the things they need, such as transportation, to let them live their own life?
- Will your parent have plenty of social interaction? Being cooped up in the house all day is lonely and is a leading cause of depression for seniors. Will they be able to see friends (either in your home or outside), or is there a senior day program they can attend to stay active?
- Will you be able to provide the level of care needed? It’s important to recognize that you will not be able to handle every aspect of your loved one’s care, especially as their needs change. If their health issues become too great, will you hire in-home help? Move Mom or Dad to a senior living community?
Once Mom or Dad Have Moved In
The role of parents and loved ones can shift greatly once they’re again living under the same roof. It’s important to be realistic about the impact this will have and the issues it can cause. After all, your parent will always be your parent, and to them, you’ll always be their child. Here are some goals to set in order to make sure everyone’s needs are cared for.
- Set boundaries. These can be everything from house rules (“quiet hours begin at 10:30 every night”) to emotional boundaries. As a caregiver, your mental and physical needs are just as important as your loved one’s, and boundaries remind everyone that there must be autonomy and respect in order for this situation to be successful. One boundary could be that you, as an adult children, will never quit your job in order to become a full-time caregiver. Or that you have “visiting hours” for friends and family on certain days and at certain times.
- Be flexible. Even the best laid plans go awry, and that’s especially true when it comes to caregiving. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes you’ll need to shift your expectations. For example, if Mom falls and needs to go to the hospital, that’s an unexpected event that may have you tweaking some of your boundaries. You also must be willing to let others help you from time to time in order to avoid burnout.
- Plan, research and discuss. Caregiving is more than just providing physical care. There are legal, financial, medical and interpersonal aspects that need to be considered and planned for. Talk with experts such as your loved one’s doctors, financial advisors, clergy and attorneys, as well as friends and family who have gone through similar situations who can provide support and tips.
If You Can No Longer Care For Your Parent
There may come a time when caregiving for your loved one yourself isn’t an ideal option. If that happens, consider a senior living community like The Bridges at Warwick. We are a family-owned and -operated senior living community that provides seniors like your parents with active lifestyles, fulfilling days and the support they need to live as independently as possible. Most of all, we can give you peace of mind, knowing your parent is with caring individuals who will treat them like family.
For more information about how to prepare yourself for the caregiving role, or if you’d like more information about our senior living community, contact our staff at The Bridges at Warwick.
Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.
You’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where everyday is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.
Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program offers specialized programming our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our secure, comprehensive memory care residence.
In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.